Pastor upset church can’t access federal funds
Faith Church in Kitchener respects that women have a legal right to abortion.
But the church, part of the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, also believes that all human life is sacred.
Members of the church don’t get in the way of women who come for abortion services at nearby Freeport Hospital. But the church has a concern with abortion, and allows right-to-life demonstrators to store their signs at the building overnight.
None of this should be frontpage news. Plenty of other religious groups feel the same way as Faith. But now, that belief system has prevented Faith Church from accessing federal government funds for a summer job running day camps for kids. A job that has nothing whatsoever to do with abortion.
“It’s quite troubling,” says pastor Richard Kopanke. “Based
on our religious faith, we’re being discriminated against.”
For nearly 20 years, he said, the church received a federal grant that hired a student to help run summer camps each year. The camps are on different themes — sports, nature, music — and cost only $60 a week. Children of all faiths are welcome. Some from low-income homes come for free.
This year, though, the Trudeau government has attached an “attestation’ to the application form.
Organizations that apply for funds must check off a box that says both the job and the organization’s core mandate “respect” individual human rights in Canada. The form explains that this includes not only Charter rights like freedom of religion and of expression, but also “women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.”
How the government defines “respect” is key here. It’s not enough to accept that these rights exist. You must also agree with the government’s values. The organization must not “seek to remove or actively undermine” these rights. In other words, no lobbying for change.
Kopanke said he couldn’t, in good conscience, endorse the attestation without comment. So he checked off the box and wrote beside it: “We affirm our right as a church to function in accordance with our religious beliefs.”
The application was returned, unapproved, last week.
Kopanke is deeply concerned that the church can’t access federal funds without what he calls “compelled speech.”
The government says it wants to prevent taxpayer funds going to an organization “whose mandates or projects may not respect individual human rights, the values underlying the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and associated case law.”
“This helps prevent youth (as young as 15 years of age) from being exposed to employment within organizations that may promote positions that are contrary to the values enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and associated case law.”
This is unbelievably heavyhanded of the Trudeau government.
Not many people want their tax dollars to pay for a teenager to hand out anti-abortion literature. But surely we can separate the belief of the organization with the job that is being done.
Plenty of religious organizations have beliefs and practices that others don’t agree with. They also do an enormous amount of good in the community when no one else will. You want one, you have to go along with the other.
If religious organizations were to stop sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry and helping the poor tomorrow, there would be a national emergency.
Someone should point that out to the thought police in Ottawa.
Pastor Richard Kopanke is concerned that his church can’t access federal funds for a day camp for kids without “compelled speech.”